The Australian air force is preparing to deliver 20 tons of emergency supplies to remote communities cut off by flood waters. Traffic has been disrupted on the main highway and railway between Adelaide in South Australia and Darwin, the capital city of the Northern Territory.    

Heavy rain and storms in recent days have damaged freight routes in South Australia. 

A 14-day major emergency was declared Friday by state authorities. It gives the police special powers to ensure food reaches isolated communities. 

South Australia has a population of 1.7 million who are already under a major emergency declaration for COVID-19. The state was also badly impacted by the Black Summer bushfires of 2019-20, although the floods have occurred away from the areas worst-hit by the fires. 

The area is expected to receive yet more rain, with up to 200 millimeters forecast in the coming days.  

A military plane is scheduled to land Monday in the outback settlement of Coober Pedy to deliver food and other essentials.  

The town is 850 kilometers north of Adelaide on the Stuart Highway and is known as the “opal capital of the world” because of its mining resources. The impact on mining and farming might not be known for days. 

Tim Jackson, the administrator of the Coober Pedy Council, told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. that the arrival of supplies would ease community concerns. 

“People are pretty relaxed generally speaking, I think, and particularly now that they know there is a significant food drop being made today. It is just a bit frustrating. It is just the unknown about when the highway is going to be opened again. (I) understand that it is the first time both the rail and road have been impacted simultaneously,” Jackson said.

Flooding in South Australia and the disruption to freight routes have led to shortages on supermarket shelves in the Northern Territory and Western Australia. 

Higher-than-average rainfall this summer is associated with a La Niña weather system, which can also produce a higher-than-normal number of tropical cyclones. 

The naturally occurring system develops when strong winds move the warm surface waters of the Pacific Ocean from South America towards Indonesia. 

In Australia, the La Niña system increases the likelihood of cooler daytime temperatures, reducing the risk of bushfires and heatwaves. 

Conservationists are warning that the impact of climate change will increase the incidence and intensity of “extreme rainfall events” in Australia. They have said that the risks of flooding are exacerbated when the atmosphere is “made warmer and wetter by climate change.” 

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